Bipolar and Sensitivity: Creating an Environment That Works For You

John McManamy Health Guide
  • Last week, I posed this question: "Would you be willing to consider a TV/Radio-free month?"


    The question came up in the context of “ the highly sensitive person” (HSP), which is the name of an eye-opening 1997 book by Elaine Aron. In a nutshell, a good many of us are hyper-aware of our surroundings. This can be a tremendous blessing when our environment is right, but there is a huge downside. As Tabby pointed out in a comment to my post on HSPs:


    I cannot work a front desk of any medical or mental type environment any longer, especially a very busy one. Too many things at one time, too many people, things coming at me from various directions, folks standing over or near me. My mind just either shuts totally down or goes squirrely.

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    Tabby also mentions the terrors of shopping and wanting to yell and run and scream through the mall. In my 2006 book, Living Well with Depression and Bipolar Disorder, I included this comment (originally posted on mcmanweb) from a certain “Bionic Woman”:


    There is the road rage. I know a lot of people experience it, but in WALMART? It is an awful feeling. I have to keep from mowing people down with my cart. Anyone who got in my way. I want to yell and scream get the F out of my way.


    The comment appeared in the context of the topic of anger, which was part of a chapter on behavior. Behavior is an outcome, the result of any number of things that go right and wrong inside our brains. But where does anger come from? Can being oversensitive to our environment be part of it? If so, maybe the solution lies in creating or recreating our own environment. Or, at least in cultivating certain survival skills. 


    Thus my question regarding taking a break from TV/Radio. As I noted:


    My home is my sanctuary. I like to hear myself think. It is also where I recover from the mindless yap-yap blah-blah yada-yada-yada of the outside world.


    To me, TV and radio is an unwelcome intrusion. But shutting out the unwelcome doesn’t mean living in a dark cave. From Donna, who surrounds herself with music and a combination of bright and subdued colors:


    I need the music and visual feast to ground myself. They make me feel alive. They say to me, "You are HERE."


    Donna also points out that TV is not necessarily a bad thing, a point that JimmyPat brings out loud and clear:


    Knowing that I am sensitive or hyperperceptive to sound, light, loud noise, and many other stimuli, I need to balance external factors and regulate my internal environment the best I can.


    Silence can sometimes be difficult. I cannot shut or slow down my thoughts, and TV/radio are often a welcome distraction. (I did however, join the Society for the Eradification of Television for a month in college 1983 and only watched Celtic games for a few months.)


    Why don’t we conclude on a totally confusing note? A couple of days ago, one of my FaceBook friends, a fellow mental health author, posted a YouTube link to a performance of a Brahms trio. “This morning’s writing music,” she commented. “It’s so beautiful it’s sort of distracting.”


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    I had a productive writing session listening to her recommendation, then responded back with a YouTube link to a Schumann quintet. Ahh ...


    Now this from Stephen King, from his 2000 book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft:


    I work to loud music - hard-rock stuff like AC/DC, Guns ‘n Roses, and Metallica have always been particular favorites - but for me the music is just another way of shutting the door. It surrounds me, keeps the mundane world out. When you write, you want to get rid of the world, do you not? Of course you do.


    I sense that we’re one or two confusing bits from some startling realizations shaking loose. Help me out, here. Comments below ...

Published On: August 24, 2013